Social Security: Ask Rusty – Can My Wife Apply For Husband Benefit First?
Published 07:10 am Wednesday 31 August 2022
AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor, Association of Older American Citizens
Dear Rusty: I have been receiving Social Security since I was 66. My wife turned 62 in June. We are thinking of putting her husband’s benefits on my record as it would be higher than hers (we checked this online). We’ve started filling out the application, but we don’t see a way to let them know that we want her to receive a partner allowance and not hers. How do we do that? Signed: try to apply
Best Try: You don’t see that option because your wife doesn’t have the option to only collect a partner’s benefit from you without also claiming her own benefit. That option was eliminated by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 for anyone born after January 1, 1954. So if your wife now applies for Social Security benefits, she is automatically expected to apply for both her own benefit (from her own work record) as well as her spousal benefit from you. She can’t wait to take her own advantage when she claims. Your wife’s benefit will consist of her own benefit plus, if she is entitled to it, a “conjugal allowance” to bring her payment up to her marital entitlement and, at age 62, both her own benefit and reduced her partner allowance. But there are some other factors to consider:
- If your wife is still working, she will be subject to Social Security’s “income test” until she reaches her full retirement age (FRA) of 67. The income test limits how much your wife can earn working and, if the limit ($19,560 for 2022) is exceeded, Social Security will take a benefit equal to $1 for every $2 she exceeds the limit. If her current work income is high enough, it may even disqualify her from receiving early Social Security benefits. The income limit lasts until your wife reaches her full retirement age.
- Your wife cannot collect her full benefit – 100% of her own benefit or 50% of your FRA benefit amount – unless she waits until her full retirement age (67) to claim this benefit. But whether she should even be entitled to a partner’s benefit with FRA, consideration should be given to whether her own social security benefit will be at most higher than her partner’s benefit. Your wife’s maximum partner benefit (at age 67) is 50% of your FRA benefit amount, but if she leaves deferred payment after her FRA, her own Social Security benefit will continue to grow (at 8% per year) until she’s 70 . If your wife’s 70-year personal benefit will be more than her partner’s benefit from you, she may consider foregoing her husband’s benefit and wait until age 70 to claim her own higher personal benefit. It’s the question of what will benefit her most for the rest of her life, and that’s where her life expectancy comes into play. If your wife is in good health and expects at least an average lifespan (about 87 for a woman her current age), it is usually a wise choice to wait until the highest benefit available (either her own benefit or her husband’s benefit). ) reached the maximum.
- Your wife’s survivor benefit as a widow may also be a consideration. If her benefit as your survivor is greater than all other benefits to which she is entitled, it may be smart to apply for her other benefits earlier. For example, if her widow’s benefit (100% of the benefit you received on your death if claimed at or after her FRA) will be higher than her maximum partner benefit or her maximum personal benefit, then her best option may be to claim earlier her pension and partner’s pension. How much sooner depends on whether she works and will exceed the income threshold before age 67.
As you can see, there are a number of factors that your wife should consider before claiming her Social Security, but she can’t just claim her husband’s benefit at age 62 and grow her own benefit.
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